Ann Champain and Richard Collins

My recent posts have explored the life and family of eighteenth-century wine merchant James Champain, who died in 1785. James was the only surviving son of John Champain, also a wine merchant, who died in 1756. John also had a daughter Ann or Anna, and it’s to her story that I return in this post. I’m interested in Ann Champain because she married Richard Collins of Epping, and thus became the sister-in-law of my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Gibson, whose first husband was Richard’s brother John Collins. Ann Collins née Champain would have been an aunt to James Champain’s nine children, and her two children would have been their first cousins.

St Peter upon Cornhill (via knowledgeoflondon.com)

St Peter upon Cornhill (via knowledgeoflondon.com)

A record of Ann’s birth or baptism has yet to come to light. The first record we have for Ann is of her marriage to Richard Collins on 15th September 1747 at the church of St Peter upon Cornhill in the City of London. From this, we can probably place her birth some time in the mid 1720s. Like her brother James, Ann was certainly a product of her father John’s first marriage, and her mother (whose identity I have yet to discover) must have died while Ann was still very young. John Champain married again in 1735, to Sarah Stumphousen, and Ann would have grown up alongside her older step-siblings, Adam, Mary and Sarah Stumphousen, as well as her own brother James.

Ann’s brother James Champain married his first wife, Hannah Hawkins, in 1744, three years before his sister’s wedding. I conclude from James’ tax records and other evidence that he and his family probably lived in London, where he carried on his (and his father’s?) wine business. As for Ann, her marriage record describes her as, like her husband Richard, ‘of Epping’. We know that her father maintained a house at Epping Long Green, as well as an address in town, so it could be that Ann spent part of her childhood in each place. If so, then she would have had much in common with the woman who would become her sister-in-law, my ancestor Elizabeth Gibson, whose family also appears to have divided between its time between an address in Tower Hill and their country house at Woodredon, Waltham Abbey, just a few miles from Epping. It’s even possible that Ann and Elizabeth knew each other before their marriages, as neighbours in one of these two locations, though they were probably about ten years apart in age (Ann being the older of the two).

Countryside near Epping, Essex (via annierack.hoofbags.me.uk)

Countryside near Epping, Essex (via annierack.hoofbags.me.uk)

I’ve made reference in earlier posts to the marriage settlement of £1200 conferred ‘in trust for purchase of estate’ made on 14th September 1747 (i.e. the day before the wedding) between Richard Collins of Epping, gent.; John Champain of Tower Street, London, citizen and wine cooper and Philip Martin of Theydon Garnon, gent.; and Ann Champain, daughter of John Champain. Apparently settlements of this kind were a way of securing separate property rights and future income for a bride, at a time when a woman’s legal and financial identity was still subsumed into that of her husband.

If Ann Champain and Elizabeth Gibson knew each other as neighbours, then this must also have been true of the Champain and Collins families. They would have been members of a small circle of gentlemen and yeoman farmers in the Epping area, and a match between Richard, the eldest son of the landowning Richard Collins senior and the only daughter of his neighbour, a wealthy London merchant, must have seemed the most natural thing in the world.

Richard Collins senior (Ann’s father-in-law) died and was buried in February 1748. Since Great Britain did not change over to the Gregorian Calendar until 1752, it’s possible that this date is what we would understand as February 1749. In other words, Richard Collins senior might have died nearly two years after his son’s marriage. The elder Richard had made his will in 1742, leaving a considerable amount of property to his eldest son, including ‘all that my customary messuage or tenement called or known by the name of Turners otherwise Colports otherwise Colworthyes situate and being at or near Lindsey Street in Epping’ and its associated lands, amounting to about 15 acres; and another property in the same area called Hight Holes, together with a property known as Parklands, amounting to a further 15 acres. The only condition is that Richard junior is to pay his younger brother William the sum of 200 pounds, either within a year of their father’s decease or when the latter reaches the age of twenty-one. (Since he was born in 1739, William would not come of age until 1760.)

St George's Chapel, Mayfair in the 18th century

St George’s Chapel, Mayfair in the 18th century

In February 1753, some nine years after the marriage of Richard Collins and Ann Champain, John Collins, who I believe to have been Richard’s younger brother, married my ancestor Elizabeth Gibson at St George’s Chapel in Mayfair. The circumstances of this marriage remain shrouded in mystery. Why did it take place at a church notorious for clandestine marriages? Was this connected in some way with the (possible) imprisonment in the Fleet of John Gibson, Elizabeth’s father, for fraud? And did the secret nature of the marriage affect John’s standing in his family or the nature of his inheritance?

John Champain, father of Ann and James, died in 1756, having made his will six years earlier. I’ll discuss this document in another post, before going on to explore the married life of Richard and Ann Collins.

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